On Friday I was lucky enough to speak at the Education Changemakers 2015 #EduChange conference. I openly admit I was intimidated by the outstanding stories of the other speakers and those from the crowd. There really was little distinction in where the inspiration was coming from. Certainly for me, the contribution of the crowd was essential in promoting the great model of professional learning that is TeachMeet.
The theme of my talk – if there was one – was about ownership of learning. I have a hunch that most teachers feel disenfranchised in their own learning process. We are often told what to learn and when, and most of this is related to compliance rather than growth. Compliance with legislation and school policy is how a school functions (although a bit of radical reflection and even rebellion is useful sometimes). However, it is a rare case study that shows a school brave enough to reject compliance as the pinnacle of professional learning – and thus the time, effort and money allocated to it – and instead focus on learning, teaching and true growth of the individual and the collective.
The most powerful aspect of TeachMeet, Twitter and other teacher-driven professional learning is the element of choice. This element is both precious and elusive. Often it is clouded or gaoled by the chains of the day-to-day, striving to make Van Gogh colours in a monochrome world. Teachers as individuals may only have choice about their learning once they leave the school grounds or are on weekends or holidays. This doesn’t say much about schools as places of learning.
We are often told that we are leaders of learning. That we need to be less sage and more guide or meddler. This requires us to BE LEARNERS and identify as such. We need to actively blur the line between ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ and make this OK for everyone. This requires us to reach down into our souls and grasp the spark of inspiration that led us to education, for it is not something one enters blindly unaware. This can manifest itself in many different ways but the most powerful is the exercising of choice. Even if we only are able to use it outside of school hours or with our own money, we must exercise choice over our professional learning in order that we expand our horizons beyond the blinkered, shackled moment of now.
We live in a world where a Year 6 teacher in Sydney can connect his class to NASA to discuss space. We live in a world where a principal from New York can lead a professional discussion for a group of teachers in Delhi. We live in a world where we gather and share resources based on that unlimited and unending source of human learning that is now able to be harnessed to power the future.
We need compliance to maintain the car but we need great learning to make the journey worthwhile. If we do great learning, the standards and expectations will be met and surpassed.
I deeply appreciate the chance to learn with others and to learn by choice. The chance to spread the TeachMeet love so that others can enjoy the benefits and the chance to throw ELLA out there and see if I can help change the world in a small way is an experience I can’t measure.
Thank you to Summer, Louka, Dave and Aaron at Education Changemakers for pushing the limits of what professional learning can be. Visit them at www.educationchangemakers.com
How will you own your learning? How will you help others to own theirs?